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Grassroots fundraiser spotlight: Julia Zhu

Grassroots fundraiser spotlight: Julia Zhu

Grassroots fundraiser spotlight: Julia Zhu

By Yiyan Zhang

Julia is a recent high school graduate and a former TELL intern. She has taken TELL’s mental health student gatekeeper training–twice–and is a certified QPR suicide prevention gatekeeper. Recently, she created a mental health magazine aimed at her Kobe community, and donated proceeds from the sale to TELL. 

Q: Can you tell us a bit about your magazine?

A: I started it the beginning of 11th grade. That’s when I got into mental health and trying to destigmatize it. 

First I started brainstorming all the things I could do to start the conversation of mental health and really educate my community on the importance of sustaining well-being and destigmatizing that conversation especially in Japan. I thought one of the most effective ways would be through an entertaining source that teenagers in my local community could read and easily access.

Writing is something that I personally enjoy and find cathartic. I tried to make it realistic and entertaining. Each article that I wrote is targeted around educating people in my local community who speak English. There were a lot of people who didn’t have any idea about mental health. 

Q: What kind of content does your magazine cover?

A: There isn’t a big theme for each magazine, but I always tried to be sensitive and respectful. For the first issue, I decided to start from the basics. What is mental health, give definitions. Who it matters to–that it really applies for everybody and that everyone is affected by it. Then I wrote a little about Japan, targeted information like Hikikomori, which is like a phenomenon that happens in Japan, when people feel like they want to socially isolate themselves. So I talked about what is going on in Japan to open the eyes of the people in my community to what’s happening around us, so that we feel that motivation and we feel incentivized to take action. 

Q: What do you think influenced you in starting this magazine? 

A: I think in Japan mental health is often stigmatized. I don’t hear a lot of people talking about it, which is almost normalized (not talking about it). Especially where I’m living, people just kind of silently suffered. I’ve seen many of my close friends and other people around me feel the same way, so I thought it was time to change that. I really wanted to make small steps forward and I knew that my actions alone maybe would not make a big change, but at least it would start the conversation.

Thank you, Julia for your creativity and your advocacy in your community!